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Idaho students use senior projects as a chance to change the smoking, vaping law

Education

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From left to right: Eagle High seniors Jake Mesecher, Marjorie Dehlin, Kalli Falck and Summer Young. | IdahoEdNews.org

By the skin of its teeth, a proposal from Eagle High School seniors to ban smoking and vaping in cars and in the presence of minors was introduced as a bill in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Seniors Kalli Falck and Marjorie Dehlin presented their proposed legislation to committee members Thursday morning. The legislation survived a vote that would have sent it back to the authors for a clearer definition of the word “vaping.”

The bill could return for a full hearing in the coming weeks.

“It went really well. They gave us the full experience, which I liked,” Falck said.

Falck, Dehlin and classmates Summer Young and Jake Mesecher are among four of five groups of students at Eagle High working on crafting legislation for their American Government senior projects.

“This is their service learning project, trying to change the law,” teacher Mark Boatman said.

That’s a complicated, multi-year process.

The vaping proposal that the teens introduced was actually written by students who graduated the year before. It was printed as a bill last year, but so late in the session it didn’t get a hearing, teacher Mark Snodgrass said.

With a rewrite, and help from Rep. Gayann DeMourdant, R-Eagle, the seniors decided to pick up fighting for the legislation that upper classmates left behind.

Falck and Dehlin argued to the committee that tobacco is the leading cause of death in Idaho and that youth are the most vulnerable to tobacco related health issues, “specifically because they are unaware of the dangers they are in, or they don’t have the voice to stop it.”

“As students we witness first hand the harmful effects of minors exposure to secondhand smoke,” Falk told the committee. “And we are aware of the vaping epidemic overtaking our schools.”

Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, while applauding the student’s work, raised concerns about a vague definition of “vaping” in the proposal that did not specify tobacco products. He supported a motion to send the proposal back to the sponsors for clarification before it would be introduced.

In a tie vote, the committee rejected sending the proposal back to the high school seniors. Then, committee members voted to send it forward to be printed.

“The chair strongly feels that getting youth involved in legislation is critical in the political process,” Chairman Fred Wood, R-Twin Falls, said. “We ought to use these opportunities … as a teaching element to have our students understand exactly what we do here.”

Wood, who voted to introduce the bill, said: “We’ll see where it goes.”

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